Even though there was no prize money or podium, crossing the finish line first in Saturday's (Sept. 8) RBC GranFondo Whistler was still special for Marvin Guzman.
The 22-year-old Vancouver resident led a three-rider breakaway into the finish and set the fastest time among the more than 6,000 registered participants at three hours, 24 minutes, 29.5 seconds. Tim Abercrombie and James Scale of Vancouver came across a few seconds behind to grab the next two spots.
"It means a lot. It's the first race I've ever won in my four years of racing," said Guzman. "The riders that came out were strong and it's nice to know that you can do well against the local field around here."
An 11-rider break left the peloton behind midway through the ride. Guzman relied on the help of training partner Sebastian Salas to stay fresh until he, Abercrombie and Scale made the sprint to the finish.
Salas made it in from UCI Pro Tour races in Quebec just in time to ride the GranFondo Whistler for a third time.
“It’s just an amazing experience to be able to do it year after year,” said Salas, who wound up eighth. “This is challenging with the elevation gain … and it’s up there with some of the harder courses I’ve done on the bike.”
Squamish's Neal Kindree (3:27:05.9) had the top local finish, as he was the fifth rider to complete the 122-kilometre ride up the Sea to Sky Highway from downtown Vancouver to Whistler Village.
Meanwhile, 2010 women's winner Leah Guloien came in with a phenomenal time of 3:28:01.1 and was the first female to finish by more than seven minutes.
"I'm happy with how I rode, I had good legs," said the Port Moody resident.
Vancouver's Jenny Lehmann (3:35:37.9) and Whistler's own Cathy Zeglinski (3:40:44.4) were the next two women's finishers. Guloien, Lehmann and Zeglinski were all riding for the Team Whistler/Whistler Question squad.
Also a member of that crew, Whistler's Tony Routley's time was not immediately available but he came in among Lehmann's group and said he was very pleased with how well the team worked together this year.
"As soon as the roll-out was over, the sparks were flying," said Routley. "We worked really well together … I'm really proud of the team."
Team Whistler's Trevor Hopkins arrived with the first big wave of riders and placed 15th overall, finishing in 3:27:57 — first among more than 130 riders from Whistler and Pemberton who completed the full distance.
Simon Whitfield, Canada's flag bearer at the opening ceremonies in London this summer, was one of several Olympians participating on Saturday. He said he was thrilled with the experience and saluted cyclists of all abilities for taking on the challenge.
“There are people out there who finished it that will probably sit down tonight and think, ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ I’ll be (doing) the same,” said Whitfield, the two-time Olympic triathlon medallist. “I hope people understand that for whatever level they’re at, it’s an accomplishment. Hopefully, a lot more people next year will say, ‘I want to do this.’”
Event co-founder Kevin Thomson said organizers really feel like they've found the formula for success with the event now in its third year, and that feedback about the course improvements for 2012 was overwhelmingly positive.
“People who have rode the event before really noticed the difference,” Thomson said while watching cyclists roll across the finish line. “Every little snippet (of feedback) I’ve heard so far is like a little bit of magic.”
Visit http://www.rbcgranfondowhistler.com/news/ride-results for a full list of results.